August 4, 2016

#72 Dead is Paul

by Reply All

Background show artwork for Reply All
This week, a Yes Yes No about gorillas, conspiracy theories, and glitter.


Further Reading

See the original tweets on our Yes Yes No tumblr.

Marina Joyce's YouTube

Article on Marina Joyce

Police tweeting about Marina Joyce


ALEX GOLDMAN: From Gimlet, this is Reply All. I’m Alex Goldman

PJ VOGT: And I’m PJ Vogt

ALEX GOLDMAN: And this week, we’re doing Yes Yes No, the segment on the show where we inflict the marginalia of the internet onto our boss--

PJ: I don't think that Marginali-- that sounds like a stationery company.


PJ: Marginalia?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Marginalia? Is it Margin-alia or Marginal-ia?

PJ: Do you call it a m--

ALEX GOLDMAN: I think of Saturnalia and marginalia. Wow, we’re off to a great start.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I--I’m right here. (laughs)

PJ: (laughing)

ALEX BLUMBERG: Are you guys done?


PJ: No.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Can we get on with this then?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Alright, the way it works is that Alex Blumberg comes to us with a piece of internet ephemera that he doesn't understand and we do our best to unspool it in a way that makes sense to him. So--

PJ: What have you got this week?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh, OK, so I have a tweet. This tweet is from Jason, it reads as follows: “i was just eating a banana and this happened … (dot dot dot) I couldn't go one second without crying HARAMBE, we miss you," and then there is four crying emojis.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And then underneath that?

ALEX BLUMBERG: And then underneath that, there is a picture--

PJ: (laughing)

ALEX BLUMBERG: --of some banana art. What can only be described as banana art. So imagine a banana.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I can do that.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And then imagine the--the skin of the top half of the banana has been peeled away. But the skin at the bottom half is still there.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And then imagine that in the part where this skin has been peeled away, somebody has nibbled a sculpture out of the banana that resembles a gorilla face.


PJ: It's very masterful.


PJ: Like it's sort of--it's it's like … it looks like they whittled it.


ALEX BLUMBERG: It's pretty amazing. And then, they took two other pieces of banana and did the same thing. And where the exposed banana was they nibbled gorilla hands with knuckles.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I can't imagine they nibbled those, I think they actually had to have sculpted them.

PJ: I am going to live in a world where they nibbled them.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I like to imagine they nibbled them.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughing)

ALEX BLUMBERG: But probably you’re right, they probably sculpted them.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Alright, PJ Vogt do you understand this tweet?

PJ: Yeah! Uh, Alex Goldman do you understand this tweet?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I'm going to say no.

PJ: Really?!

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, I would say that I am sort of--I would say that--


ALEX GOLDMAN: --I’m at about at 50%.

PJ: Holy crap, this feels good! OK.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Alex Blumberg, do you understand this tweet?

PJ: Don't ruin this for me.


PJ: Yes!


ALEX BLUMBERG: We are at Yes No No.

ALEX GOLDMAN:So … so what do you understand?

ALEX BLUMBERG: What do I understand? I understand … um … that bananas are delicious fruit high in calcium.

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Is that really it? Is that all you get?


PJ: It sounds like senate testimony.

ALEX BLUMBERG: No--I understand all the words, I just don't have any idea why … they make any sense. Like, I understand that you are eating a banana, I understand what crying is, um, I don't know who Harambe is.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I think we should just start at who Harambe is.

PJ: Wait, I thought that you--how much do you know?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I know who Harambe is and what became of him.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Is Harambe the gorilla?

PJ: Yes!


ALEX BLUMBERG: Ohhhh, that's a sad story.

ALEX GOLDMAN: If you are not familiar with the story of Harambe, he was a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo.

ALEX GOLDMAN: And in May--I'm pretty sure--a 3-year-old fell into his enclosure. The gorilla was dragging the 3-year-old around, um, and the zoo decided to shoot and kill the gorilla.

PJ: And somebody shot a video of it. And the video circu- online--it - it's scary.

ALEX BLUMBERG: No, it's really scary. That was very scary.

PJ: Yeah, it's like a crazy video to watch.


ALEX GOLDMAN: It resulted in, sort of like, a crazy outpouring of opinions. People were mad that Harambe was killed. People were mad at the--


ALEX GOLDMAN: --parents of the child.

PJ: It was--

ALEX GOLDMAN: What I don't comprehend is, what is b- Harambe has taken on ... Harambe lives.

PJ: No.

ALEX GOLDMAN: In the hearts of people on Twitter in a way that I totally don't understand.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, so Harambe has become a meme.

PJ: Yes.


PJ: Yes. I--

ALEX BLUMBERG: He’s grinning so widely--

PJ: --enjoy this meme a lot. I enjoy understanding this meme a lot.

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK, ‘cause right now ... if I could just chart--

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: --my emotional trajectory of this Yes Yes No. It was a little bit of a letdown to realize, “Oh, Harambe is the gorilla."

PJ: ‘Cause you feel like--

ALEX BLUMBERG: Like, I was just like, “Ah,” I was like, "Oh, that's story just basically makes me sad. It's also not- it doesn't seem like there is too many levels to it. It's just sort of you classic internet outrage." So I’m--I’m hoping you can take us someplace weird.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Blow our minds.

PJ: I don't know how weird we’re gonna go, but I might be able to make you feel ... eh, it might be an emotional journey. OK, so basically there is a thing that happens on the internet ... everybody knows that there are times when people like to make inappropriate jokes about horrible things that happen. There’s, like, a whole school of humor that is like, "If I can't say it, that’s what I am going to say." Like we know that.


PJ: So, like, the best example I can come up with is ... after the tragedy in Benghazi, when ... Americans were killed. There was a whole section of the internet that took this on. And the way they would express their grief about it was that they would do these acrostic poems. Like, they would write "Benghazi" out and every letter would stand for a different thing. And it was always, like, them yelling about, uh, "the cover-up" or whatever.

And ... that went on for so long that people started making fun of the Benghazi acrostics. Like, there were jokes about that thing.

ALEX GOLDMAN: But the joke was not about the tragedy in Benghazi, the joke was about the reaction to the tragedy in Benghazi.

PJ: Exactly. So like, so that's what happened with Harambe. Like, the sad thing happened, people reacted in big and, sometimes, like, insane ways--


PJ: And so there is now this counter-cultural response of people doing jokes that are like … about--even more over the top--how sad they are about the death of Harambe. And, like, the first time you see this--the joke, you are like, “OK, I don't think we need to make inappropriate jokes about the dead gorilla. That story’s sad enough." And then, like, the fourth time you see the joke--if you are me at least--you are so completely on board with the joke--

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing)

PJ: It is so funny.

ALEX BLUMBERG: So this is this.

PJ: This is like an example of this. And, like, another--

ALEX BLUMBERG: So wait, “I was just eating a banana and this happened. I couldn't go one second without crying--”

PJ: “HARAMBE we miss you.”


PJ: So, the joke of this is that this person was so bereft that this gorilla at the zoo died that they accidently nibbled a Harambe sculpture


PJ: --out of the banana they were eating.

ALL: (laughing)

ALEX BLUMBERG: Just absentmindedly and then looked down and they’re like, "Oh my God!”

PJ: Like--


PJ: When you’re eating--

ALEX BLUMBERG: “I nibbled you!"

PJ: (laughs) Like when you lose someone in your life and you are sad and you’re, like, eating a piece of toast and you look--


PJ: --down and realize you’ve, like, bitten the perfect outline of their face. Like, a human experience we have all had that definitely always happens.


PJ: So it's like .. do y- d- right? This is funny? This is an OK thing to find funny?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yes. I guess so. I - I--I guess, for me, the question is ... I'm still not sure. Who ... is somebody being ... made fun of? What are we b--what are we making fun of here?

PJ: I don't think anyone--I think grief is being made fun of here.


PJ: I mean, I guess, OK, people who are really sad about a gorilla they never met having died to save a 3-year-old are being made fun of. But at this point, they’re not being made fun of. It's just, like, the joke is, like, "Wouldn't it be funny if the saddest thing in the world to me was the death of this one gorilla?" I think.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I just want to sit here for one second though and think about that for a minute.

PJ: How you feel about it?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. ‘Cause I get ... as somebody who … uh … cares a lot about animals (laughs) in a certain way. Like--yeah, I care a lot about animals. I get the tragedy of this poor animal who, like, doesn't know … is, like, just is - is--animals are, like, sort of, like, a priori innocent.

PJ: Right.


ALEX BLUMBERG: And so, I understand that when they are killed for, like, human fuck-ups, like--

PJ: It is sad.

ALEX BLUMBERG: --it, it just feels, like, wrong.

PJ: Right. And I don't mean to suggest that, like--


PJ: --I want people, like, kill gorillas for my joy or anything like that. It's more like--OK, so like, when you look at the momentum of the, like, online Harambe mourning system, it’s weird. It’s like, there's a Facebook group called "Justice for Harambe," where they talk about, like, "We have to avenge his murder."

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, but it's like that moment where it goes from, “I feel sad about this gorilla," to, "Somebody must pay for my sad feeling about this gorilla."

PJ: We have to avenge the murder.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, it's like--that's the moment that I feel like ... I feel comfortable skewering.

PJ: Right, right. And it's easier to actually just skewer, "I feel sad about this gorilla," unfortunately.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Right. (laughs)

PJ: Which is why … yeah. It's weird, now I feel, like, unsettled with how funny I find all of this. … Hrm.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh, the tables have been turned.

PJ: I don’t like it at all.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Usually you make me feel bad.

PJ: I know,I feel like now--


PJ: ... Huh … huh. I didn't want to learn anything.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs) Watching--watching the rock tumblers in his brain--

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: --figure out that, “Maybe this is a sad thing.”

ALEX BLUMBERG: That's what the rock tumbler in his brain sounds like.

PJ: (laughing)




PJ: (still laughing)




PJ: (still laughing, stops) ... I feel fine again. (laughs)

ALEX GOLDMAN: He has processed it.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Alright, so I am going to explain the tweet.

PJ: Yeah

ALEX BLUMBERG: I was--OK, to recap. Jason sent out a tweet, "i was just eating a banana and this happened...i couldnt go one second without crying HARAMBE we miss you." And then there is a picture of a banana sculpture where a gorilla has been, um, sculpted out of, um, out of - out--out of a ripe banana. Ahh … and what this tweet is referring to--Harambe, being mentioned in this tweet, is the gorilla who was killed in the Cincinnati zoo when the toddler fell into his enclosure. And the tweet is, um, mocking the outpouring of emotion that happened in the wake of that. Where it seemed like half the internet was in an uproar of grief and sadness and finger pointing about the fact that this noble and innocent animal died.

ALEX GOLDMAN: We're at Yes Yes Yes. Good work guys.

PJ: A very sad Yes Yes Yes.

ALEX GOLDMAN: (laughs) Uh, so ...

ALEX BLUMBERG: OK, so that's great. But I am just looking--there’s this other Harambe tweet that I still actually don't understand.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Umm … here, I’ll read it to you. It's from Keem.

PJ: Keem.

ALEX BLUMBERG: K-e-e-m. And the caption is simply--it's a photo--and the caption is, "Proof Harambe is alive." And then there is a picture of … sort of a girl from the back with a pink dress on. And ... there’s a, sort of a, crudely-drawn red circle. The way you draw those circles with, like, Photoshop or whatever. Like a crudely-drawn red circle around, uh, what seems to be a bruise on her upper arm. Yeah, that's it.

ALEX GOLDMAN: PJ Vogt, do you understand the tweet?

PJ: I know what it's referencing and I have had conversations about the thing that it's referencing. And I've not saved the data in my brain. Like, it's like when someone explains, like, how a science things works. And I’m just like, "OK, do I have to floss or not have to floss?" Like, I’ve lost all of the explanation. So, no?


PJ: Alex Goldman, do you understand this tweet?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I would like to think that I do.

PJ: But?


PJ: Kind of? Half?

ALEX GOLDMAN: I want to say yes. Maybe I am not confident enough to say yes. Alex Blumberg, do you understand this tweet?


PJ: OK., so let me explain what I do understand … the basics of this is that there is a beauty blogger and there is - there are like stories on the internet, like, that started about a week ago about how her large online fan community believes that she is sending distress signals, coded distress signals through her videos.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Can I see what she--like, who is this now?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Her name is Marina--

ALEX BLUMBERG: Actually, let me ask a more basic question (laughing)--what’s a beauty blogger?


PJ: And we are back on comfortable footing.

ALEX: Uhh--

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh, a beauty blogger--

ALEX BLUMBERG: I mean I sorta know.

ALEX GOLDMAN: --is someone who like tells you how to apply makeup, basically.


ALEX GOLDMAN: Like, "Here’s the way to … do--" oh my god, I’m gonna sound like such a jackass.

PJ: It's good that there’s now a part of your brain that knows when you don't know what you are talking about. Because I feel like that’s, like, a late development and--


PJ: --it’s awesome.

ALEX BLUMBERG: So just … come, br--show it--show me. Show me show me show me one.

ALEX GOLDMAN: So, her name is Marina Joyce. She’s 19 years old, she lives in England. And this is sort of like what her videos are like. It’s just her and the camera, hold on I am getting an ad. It is just her standing in front of the camera talking to you. That's basically it. Hold on, wait until this ad’s over.

PJ: Are there two ads?

ALEX GOLDMAN: No, it's just a f- one 15-second ad.

PJ: Did you click the thing where you can skip it?

ALEX GOLDMAN: You can't skip it.

PJ: Ooof.

[Sound of “GLITTER EYE MAKEUP TUTORIAL” Youtube video by Marina Joyce]

PJ: Glitter make up tutorial.


MARINA JOYCE: Hi guys, I said that I would do a glitter eye makeup tutorial for you guys because I think people like to look at my glittery eyes. And I really want to show you guys how I do my, like, glitter eyes--I think it looks awesome--because every time I go out people are like, "Wow your eyes look amazing!" And I can share this with the world so, yeah, I just, like, love glitter so much that I started to put it on my eyes. So … I think that you guys will appreciate it too. I’m gonna move to my bathroom so I can show you guys, because it’s got better lighting in there and, like, I’m filming quite late so it is going to get darker and darker. So yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: This is nine minutes long by the way.

MARINA JOYCE: This is the finished eye makeup--

ALEX BLUMBERG: Oh, she made a …

MARINA JOYCE: --and it's called glittery eyes by me.

PJ: OK so we get the idea, right?

MARINA JOYCE: Hi guys, this is the finished look that I am going to be showing you guys today--


MARINA JOYCE: --how to do this look. And yeah, it's a very fun thing to do. [skipped ahead] -st. I just really love glitter. And I love glitter so much, like, always put, like, glitter over my face when I go to parties. So. (Yeah, so …)

[Youtube audio quickly fades out]

ALEX GOLDMAN: Alex Blumberg is losing his mind.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing)

PJ: It's a crazy look. Like, her eyes are completely outlined in glitter.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing) Oh my god!

PJ: (laughs)

ALEX BLUMBERG: It's not like you really need a tutorial to do that, you just put a LOT of glitter right under your eyes.

PJ: I bet you that you would do that and it would be wrong.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, it's true, I would get it all wrong.

ALEX GOLDMAN: You would think that, but that has 450,000 views--


ALEX GOLDMAN: --so obviously you need a tutorial to do it.

ALEX BLUMBERG: But she’s very charming and she’s … so that's her.

PJ: That's her, and as of last week, people started to believe … or at least, like ... last week, a rumor circulated that videos like that are secretly being filmed from, like, I guess within an ISIS studio that she’s not allowed to leave. And that she is a prisoner. And that in very, very subtle ways, she is trying to, like, blink out a Morse Code and saying, “Set me free."


ALEX GOLDMAN: That’s actually a theory that I read, that she is trying to blink out--one of the many theories. That she was trying to blink out Morse code that says that she’s in trouble. I saw somewhere that there was a moment where some of her fans actually thought that she was a victim of domestic abuse. And, fortunately, it seems pretty clear now that’s not true. But there’re all these other theories about what’s going on that are just totally bonkers.

PJ: So … there’s a million other questions I feel like you are going to have that I don’t know the answers to. And I know this is not orthodox--would it be OK if …. can I bring in outside counsel?


PJ: Is that OK?

ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah, are you kidding?

PJ: OK. let’s just, like, let me get them on the phone, we will meet back in the studio, there will be people who can actually answer this for us.


PJ: Ok, I found people who can explain this to us. My friend Haley is an editor at MTV’s website and she oversees all these writers. She calls them teens, I don’t think they’re actually teenagers, but they’re younger than us. And basically like, they are ... when I hear about something that, to me, is, like, weird and confusing about the internet, they’re, like, already very bored of it. Like, they make me feel like I’m in the wrong part of a Yes Yes No. So I figured, like, they will probably know everything there is to know about this and be, like, surprised that we still find it interesting.

ALEX BLUMBERG: This is very exciting.

PJ: I know.

[Phone ringing]


PJ: Hello?



ALEX GOLDMAN: So, can you guys just identify yourselves, just say who you are so we have that on tape?

MAEVE: Uh, I’m Maeve Keirans. I’m a writer for MTV News ... and, yeah.

ERIKA HARWOOD: I am Erika Harwood, I am also a writer for MTV News.

PJ: Uh, right, so I wanted to talk to you guys because we've been talking about Marina Joyce?


PJ: And we don't understand--

ERIKA: We are familiar.

PJ: How familiar? When you say we are familiar--how familiar? How much of this is the top story of all the news that you've been reading lately?

MAEVE: Last week it was like 40% of our day, I would say.

ERIKA: Yeah.

MAEVE: Maybe more.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Last week--

PJ: Last week like when the--when the democratic convention was happening.

MAEVE: Oh yeah.

ERIKA: Oh yeah, we didn't even pay attention to that.


MAEVE: All in on Marina.

ERIKA: Marina Joyce.

PJ: OK, so bring us into Marina Joyce world.

MAEVE: OK, I'll kick things off. So, she’s a British YouTube-r who had, like, a sizeable-ish following, 600,000 subscribers. Which is more than I have. But I’ve heard isn’t that impressive.

ERIKA: (coughs)

MAEVE: That’s like--

PJ: What's impressive in YouTube land?

ERIKA: Like two million.

MAEVE: Is like, “Sure.”

ERIKA: Yeah.

MAEVE: “You did a good job.”

ERIKA: “We’ll pay attention.”

PJ: (laughs)



MAEVE: Um … so she had had videos and then in the fast few months some people were realizing … that she had begun acting somewhat erratic in videos.

[Audio from a Marina Joyce YouTube video]

MARINA JOYCE: I have to say that, if you want to comment in the comment section, if you want to meet up with me one day, if you wanna make a meet-up with me, comment in the comment section discussing with me meetups, because I'd love to (meet up with you ...)

[audio continues under voices]

ERIKA: Like she would just repeat it, but in different ways. Like, if she were saying, “I want to go hang out with my friends right now," she would be like, “I want to go hang out with my friends.”

[YouTube audio stops]

ERIKA: “It's my friends that I would love to hang out with right now, to hang out with my friends,” like--just over and over.

PJ: That's weird.

ALEX GOLDMAN: That is weird.

ERIKA: So weird.

MAEVE: Yeah.

ERIKA: It's so weird.

PJ: But it, also, it's funny--


PJ: --because it could just be ... like, we make our podcast and sometimes we’ll be,like, reading a line and you’ll read it a bunch of times and not edit it right. So--

MAEVE: Right

PJ: --it could also just be somebody screwing up editing.

ERIKA: Uhh--

MAEVE: Yeah.

PJ: No.

ERIKA: It could be, but then other things happened.

MAEVE: Yeah so, that's--we’ll get to her editing style later.


MAEVE: Yeah.

ERIKA: It's a key detail.

MAEVE: (laughs) Yeah. Erika do you want to jump in and?

ERIKA: Sure, I’ll take it from here. So ... after that happened, it was the other YouTube-r, right? Um, what was his name? Like--

MAEVE: Carmie Sellito.

ERIKA: Right.

MAEVE: “touchdalight.”

ERIKA: So this guy has met Marina in the past, said she was, like, a nice girl but kind of, like, a little strange--but nothing to bat an eye at really.

PJ: Uhuh.

ERIKA: And so, he was saying in … the recent weeks he’s, kind of, noticed, like, very dramatic shifts in her behavior on her videos. And he sort of took it upon himself to post his own video being like, "Something’s going on. We need to help this girl. She is out control. We don't know what’s happening, but people need to be aware.”

PJ: Which is weird way--

ERIKA: And so--

PJ: --if you’re concerned about somebody to express it to them.

MAEVE: Yeah, I mean it’s very efficient …

PJ: (laughing) It doesn’t seem--

MAEVE: … big audience …

PJ AND ERIKA: (laugh)

MAEVE: The police will get in, you know?

ERIKA: Yeah.


ALEX GOLDMAN: I mean aside from blinking a lot and repeating herself, what were the signs of her … of her, uh, trouble?

ERIKA: Well, she had posted what was clearly a sponsored video. Which is something that, if you have a certain number of followers, you get to do to make that cash. And so, she posted one for, like, this dress company I had never heard of. And, in it, she is essentially a robot with flesh. Like, she has no emotion. She repeats herself over and over.

[Audio from YouTube video “Date Outfit Ideas” by Marina Joyce]

MARINA JOYCE: So today I’m advertising Style U and I’m advertising their clothes. So this is me just advertising their clothes. And yeah, I love you guys so much. This is the clothing company that I’m advertising. And this is the dress that I’m wearing.

[audio continues underneath]

PJ: This is weird. She’s not fully in the frame and she keeps, like, curtseying into the frame. And spinning around.

MARINA JOYCE: Click the link or--

[audio continues underneath]

PJ: She--she suddenly looks like she’s forgotten how to do her job. Like, she doesn’t look sad--

ERIKA: Right.

PJ: --or upset or crazy. She looks like … she’s impersonating the person who used to do this.

[YouTube audio stops]

ERIKA: Right. And she, like, starts to ... she’ll always look off-camera? Like she’s looking for approval? Like, “This is right, right?” And like--

PJ: Right!

ERIKA: And then ,there were also other things in the video. Like you see someone’s hand coming out that is supposedly a script.

MAEVE: People on Twitter were convinced that that was, like, a script that her boyfriend who was holding her hostage had written for her.

PJ: Ohhh!

MAEVE: So that he could take all the money.

ERIKA: And allegedly, like, I can't hear this but the rest of the internet can--apparently, if you, like, slow it down in this one part, y- she whispers, "Help me." Which, I think, it is just, like, maybe a breeze--

MAEVE: Yeah.

PJ: (laughing)

ERIKA: --or something.

MAEVE: It's a breath.

ERIKA: Yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Was there ever? Somebody, early on, said something about … d- was ISIS involved in--in this, sort of, th- a- story ever?

ERIKA: I think there was--it was, like, part of the rumor that she may have been kidnapped by ISIS?


ERIKA: Sometimes it was ISIS. Sometimes it was just, like, severe drug use. Sometimes it was … mental illness. There was, like, a whole range of … guesses as to what was causing this.

ALEX GOLDMAN: I mean, has Marina Joyce commented on this at all? Like, has she (laughs) what was her response to the internet losing its mind over the fact that they thought that she was being held hostage?

ERIKA: She’s responded a few times. Initially, she just tweeted back at people being like, “I’m OK, I'm fine. Thanks for the concern.” But then ... it kind of kept growing and other outlets were picking it up, like, "Something’s up with this beauty blogger. We don’t' know what it is."

ALEX BLUMBERG: ‘Cause that’s exactly what--

ERIKA: And so, then--

ALEX BLUMBERG: --somebody would make her say.

ERIKA: Right.

PJ: So then what happened?

MAEVE: Um, so then at some point … the police went to their house because--

PJ: What?

MAEVE: --the tweets had grown so … voluminous … um, which, I guess is how the police work there? Um.

PJ: (laughs)

MAEVE: And they confirmed on their police twitter that everything was fine. (And they spoke to her mom.)

PJ: Wait! The police had to go on twitter and tell everybody everything was fine?

MAEVE: Yeah.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Now let me ask you this. So you guys have, like, done--you’ve been, like, deep in this story for a long time. What do you think the truth is?

MAEVE: What is the truth? Um ... I think that the guy--the male British YouTube-r who began the hashtag--was trolling and underestimated how … far Twitter and Tumblr users can run with, like, very unfounded evidence. And it kind of spiraled out of control. And I don't doubt that there’s something extremely strange happening with her. But … what is is doesn't seem to be what his conclusion was.

PJ: But then, the thing that is still weird to me is--it’s like, that happens, and then … she, like, keeps telling everybody everything’s OK, but she’s continuing to do all the behaviors that people have pointed out are specifically really weird and, like, adding new ones.

ERIKA: Right. Which, I think, that--

PJ: So why?

ERIKA: --is why, right now ... I don’t wanna be the one to say it, but she did get, you know, a million and a half new subscribers from this.

PJ: You’re being careful because you don’t wanna say … (‘cause you can’t know. Like you--)

ERIKA: I don’t wanna be the one to … say, like, “She’s doing this for publicity and followers.” Because, I mean, she does seem ... a little off. So if she is … struggling with some mental health thing, like, I don’t wanna be the one that’s super cynical and like, “No, she’s just doing it for followers.”

ALEX BLUMBERG: So ... can I … see if you guys understand a tweet that we are talking about?


ALEX BLUMBERG: I am going to describe this tweet to you and will you tell me if you understand it?

MAEVE: Yeah.

ERIKA: (laughs)

ALEX BLUMBERG: So … it's a - it's - it’s a … it's a … tweet from a guy named Keem. And, it’s a--it's a still, I now realize, from the promotional dress video.

ERIKA: Sure.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Uh, and it's a shot of, uh, wh- … what's her name again?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Marina Joyce.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Marina--yeah. It’s a shot of Marina Joyce



PJ: (laughs) You’ve learned nothing.


ALEX BLUMBERG: Yeah. It's a shot of Marina Joyce from, uh, from behind, you see the--her upper arm. And there’s, like, a slight discoloration and then there’s, like, sort of a red circle around it. And the caption of the picture is "Proof Harambe is alive."


MAEVE: Erika, you can take this one.

ERIKA: I’m gonna go ahead and say that … she sort of became a meme. The--yeah. How do you say the gorilla’s name?


ERIKA: Yeah, he’s, like, kind of become a meme, like. himself?

MAEVE: Yeah, it was, like, the blending of two very popular memes from last week.

ALEX BLUMBERG: The joke is that he’s, like, using this as evidence to prove the wrong conspiracy.

PJ: Ohhh.

ERIKA: Yeah.

MAEVE: Right. Sure.

PJ: Ohhhh.


ERIKA: It's just too many memes at once.

ALEX BLUMBERG: Ohhh. It’s pretty--oh, I see. It’s very deep. It’s working on many levels.

ERIKA: So this may be more Harambe than Marina Joyce.

MAEVE: Correct.

PJ: Thank you--thank you so much for explaining this to us.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Thank you.

ERIKA: No problem.

MAEVE: Thank you!

ALEX GOLDMAN: So Alex (laughs), we are Yes Yes Yes. And we’re also kind of through the looking glass.


PJ: You always say that and I never know what you mean when you say “through the looking glass.”

ALEX GOLDMAN: It s- it means that we’re in Wonderland.

PJ: Huh. What--what happens in Wonderland?

ALEX GOLDMAN: It's, like, all of the rules of reality are turned upside down.

PJ: Dead gorillas are alive.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah.Conspiracies are in every hand gesture.

ALEX BLUMBERG: I was probably having a thought about--when we were in the middle of the story--that I- I would bet that nobody else was having a thought. And it was especially when--it was the part where she was talking about, like, there was this one part of the video that if you slowed it down it sounded like she was saying, “Help me.”

PJ: Yeah.

ALEX GOLDMAN: Can I--can I, uh, take a guess?


ALEX GOLDMAN: Was it Paul is dead?


PJ: What?

ALEX GOLDMAN: Uh, there was a ... there was a … conspiracy theory in the ‘60s that around 1964-65, Paul McCartney died in a car crash and was replaced by a fake Paul. And there was a ton of coded messages in album covers.

ALEX BLUMBERG: And there was one particularly famous Beatles song--which I have now forgotten, I used to know which one it was--but if you played it backwards it said, “Paul is Dead.”

PJ: Oh, the song, “Dead is Paul."


ALEX BLUMBERG: Um … and it--and it occurred to me that, like, people like to find patterns where there are none. Which is part of our nature, right? Like, we find--that’s why we like conspiracy. We, like, we sort of assemble things into a pattern even when there isn't one. But, in the old days, you used to have to work a little bit. It’s like, you have access--

ALEX GOLDMAN: (sighs) Yeah.

ALEX BLUMBERG: --to more random data points now than ever before. And so, you can just assemble them any way you want. Into a conspiracy story. And it took months to assemble all those things--

ALEX GOLDMAN: Oh, years--

PJ: Here is my day--


PJ: --we made up rumors. We had to do it walking uphill.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing) Exactly.

PJ: You guys are the worst.

ALEX BLUMBERG: (laughing)

PJ: Kids these days. (laughs)

ALEX BLUMBERG: They've got conspiracy theories dripping from their fingertips!

PJ: (laughing)

ALEX GOLDMAN: Proud of yourself?

PJ: Yes. (laughs)


PJ: (Help Me.) OK, cool

ALEX GOLDMAN: Did you just whisper, “Help me”?

PJ: No.

[outro music]

PJ: Thanks to Erika Harwood and Maeve Kierans. You can read them over at MTV, they are bloggers in the Style section. Also--MTV has a ton of podcasts now and they’re good. Go listen to them.

Alright. That’s it for the show this week. Reply All is hosted by me, PJ Vogt, and Alex Goldman. The show is produced by Sruthi Pinnamaneni, Phia Benin, and Chloe Prasinos. Our executive producer is Tim Howard and our editor is Peter Clowney. Production assistance by Thom Cote. We were mixed by Rick Kwan.

Special thanks to Jacqueline Helbert and Haley Mlotek.

Matt Lieber is a plate of very fancy cold cuts.

Our theme song is by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder, our ad music is by Build Buildings. You can listen to the show on iTunes or in whatever podcast app you prefer--we’re on Spotify, we’re in the Google Music Store.

Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next week.